In last week’s blog--’How to Create your own Compost’, we briefly mentioned the impact of wasted food on the environment. If you don’t remember, we said that 25% of what we throw away can be composted, yet instead our food goes to landfills where it generates 20% of the nations greenhouse gases. However, what we didn’t mention is that our total food waste accounts to 1.3 billion tons of food per year worldwide, which happens to be a third of the food we grow annually. While some of our food waste is created during the growing, processing, and retail journey, in North America 40% of wasted food comes from consumers simply throwing it away.
So, what can we do about it?
Since we still have one more week of GREEN this March, we want to spend it discussing what we can do to reduce the amount of food we waste at home. While some of us are quite savvy in the kitchen, making sure every dollar spent at the grocery store gets put to use, several of us let what we buy go to waste. Just the other day I caught myself throwing away the broccoli stem! However, by adopting a few of the following habits, we may be on our way to reducing our food waste for good!
1. Go to the Store with a Plan
Every time we go to the grocery store without checking our current supply of food or planning ahead, two things are bound to happen. One, we buy more than we need and two, we spend more money. However, if we go to the store prepared, we tend to be much more frugal shoppers. Therefore, when you plan your meals for the week, check your fridge and pantry for items you already have and then create a shopping list with whatever is leftover. If you need help in this area, try an app like ‘Out of Milk’, which lets you create a shopping list and measure how much it will cost, or try ‘Meal Hero’ for helping you meal prep for the week ahead!
2. Shop Weekly
Although buying food once every paycheck may be convenient, shopping for two weeks or more makes for cluttered fridges and wasteful kitchens. By shopping weekly, or as frequently as possible, shoppers not only minimize their spending, but they are also less likely to have food that spoils before it has been used.
3. Buy in Season
When we buy produce that is in season, we are buying food that is local. When we buy food that is local, we reduce our waste in the transportation process (food that spoils, consumption of non-renewable resources, increased carbon footprint, packaging waste, etc.). Plus seasonal fruit is fresher, tastier, and more nutritious!! Local Farmers Market anyone?
4. Stop Over-Serving and Save for Later
America is known for its large serving sizes, even when the food is cooked at home. We like to dish out a hearty portion for everyone, making sure the big meal we’ve produced gets used up completely. Unfortunately, even if we are doing so with the best intentions, over-serving often ends with food left on plates or over-consumption. Luckily, we can eliminate both by cutting our serving sizes down and making a nice lunch for tomorrow with the leftovers. No more plate scraps thrown in the trash or stuffed stomachs!
5. Keep Yourself Organized
A clean pantry is a smart pantry. It saves you money, it saves you time, and it saves the environment. How? Cluttered fridges and cabinets often lead to repetitive purchases. With unorganized cupboards, we think we need something because it’s not in clear sight, when in reality we have the ingredient, it’s just too lost in the chaos to be noticed. However, if we take time to tidy our space, we avoid making unnecessary purchases that lead to wasted food.
6. Use Dates as Guidelines
The dates on our food tend to dictate their shelf life in our homes. However, ‘Use By’, ‘Sell by’, ‘Best by’ and ‘Exp’, all have different definitions that don’t mean THROW OUT IMMEDIATELY ON THIS DATE. Funnily enough, many Americans think their milk has gone bad the moment it hits midnight on the expiration date. However, even if your food has passed one of these dates, it should still be good to eat or use if it has been handled and stored properly. As long as your food has not developed an odor, weird texture, or off flavor, there is no need to throw it out right away.
7. Be Thrifty
Always check your fridge before heading off to the grocery store. When you are hungry but decide to stick to what’s in your fridge, your creativity may surprise you! And remember not all food is bad just because you can’t serve it the way you might have intended. Stale bread? How about making croutons? Soft tomatoes? Time to try making homemade pasta sauce! Your kitchen is your greatest grocery store if you let it be.
8. Divert it
At the end of the day, we know we can’t be perfect. Some of our food will be wasted. However, we can try our best to divert it from going straight to the landfill. Our last blog on composting, gives the perfect option for turning waste into Black Gold treasure. Check it out for more info!
With the statistics we found on food waste, it’s clear we need to make a change. However, by adjusting our habits and making GREENER choices, making a difference is completely possible. Not only will we save money and be more organized, our commitment to reducing our food waste will certainly help the environment, decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases landfills emit.
We hope you’ll consider making this lifestyle change, we know you’ve got it in you!
Hardie, William H. “Consumer Product Safety Labeling and the Influence of Litigation.” International Journal for Consumer and Product Safety. www.fsis.usda.gov
“Reducing Wasted Foods at Home.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home
Sengupta, Somini. “How Much Food do we Waste? It’s Probably more than you Think.” New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/climate/food-waste-emissions.html
“Why Compost?” The Huffington Post. www.huffingtonpost.com/food-politic/why-compost
“Why Eat Seasonally.” Seasonal Food Guide. www.seasonalfoodguide.org/why-eat-seasonally